Manchester United returned to winning ways in the FA Women’s Super League with a 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the Leigh Sports Village.
Both sides were fresh off the back of hard-fought 2-1 wins against Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United respectively.
United kept the ball well in the opening stages and even when they did lose it, Hayley Ladd was on hand at every opportunity to break up Spurs’ play. They could, and probably should, have gone ahead on a couple of occasions in the first 20 minutes when Jane Ross fired straight at Chloe Morgan from 12 yards and Jackie Groenen dragged her first-time effort wide soon after.
Tottenham Hotspur did still cause United problems in the few instances that they did venture forward. The closest they came in the first half was through a long range left footed effort from Josie Green which looked to have caught Mary Earps unawares when she could only tip the ball onto the bar for it to bounce back into play. Earps was able to recover well and collect the ball in the goalmouth before colliding with Rianna Dean. A free-kick was then awarded to the United shot stopper after both players received treatment.
United continued to create chances of their own but couldn’t find that cutting edge to take the lead. Ross received the ball at her feet from Katie Zelem and then spun her marker and let fly with a low left footed shot from the edge of the area. Morgan did just about enough to get down and tip the ball around the post for a corner.
After the break Tottenham Hotspur, sensing that a win could be on the cards, looked to create more chances of their own. Gemma Davison played a neat reverse pass for Dean to cut through the United defence and leave the Tottenham number nine one-on-one with the keeper. Earps stayed big and made a fine save to deny the Spurs forward.
The away side would soon rue that missed opportunity when just minutes later, Ladd was brought down in the area and referee Edward Duckworth pointed to the penalty spot. Captain Zelem stepped up and fired the ball low into bottom left corner, leaving Morgan with no chance. That was Zelem’s fourth penalty she has scored so far this season.
The Oldham-born player quickly turned provider when her corner was whipped in from the right and somehow passed through a crowd of players to land at the feet of Jess Sigsworth. The forward probably couldn’t believe her luck and fired the ball into the bottom corner with an instinctive finish. Despite being United’s top goalscorer last season this was only the second occasion that Sigsworth has been able to find the net in the league this term.
Despite being 2-0 down Spurs didn’t feel that they were out of it and still pushed forward for a goal of their own. They nearly got it after a lofted ball over the top reached Dean who once again found herself through on goal. This time she rounded Earps but could only hit the outside of the post from the narrow angle.
The home team then put the game to bed and made sure of all three points four minutes from time through Zelem. Tottenham Hotspur gave away a free-kick in a dangerous area just outside the box and Zelem guided the ball delicately into the bottom corner past the outstretched arm of Morgan.
Still the drama was not over when substitute Ella Toone was given her marching orders in stoppage time. The England youngster took issue with a late challenge from Ria Percival and after clashing with Lucia Leon, was shown a red card to reduce United to 10 players.
The match played out in a near identical manner to the reverse fixture earlier in the season with United winning 3-0 and having a young player sent off in the dying moments.
Toone could now miss crucial matches against Manchester City, Reading, and Chelsea in the coming weeks if she is given a three-match ban. United will need all players available possible, particularly for that huge Manchester derby in the Women’s FA Cup next weekend.